Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Okay, so it’s been awhile, huh?  Where I was once an unyielding scribe of film criticism, I soon turned to the world of sports—namely, baseball—and set aside the writing of reviews.  Now, I’m still a constant movie-goer—always putting in a disc in the player or seeing the occasional blockbuster in the theaters—but I had to turn my attention elsewhere and put Cinema Bits in hiatus for a time (it’s a long story and I won’t get into it).  I’ve done it before, taking a yearlong break until Star Wars: The Force Awakens pulled me back to my film scrutiny and making me see the error of my ways. 
So, here I am, once again being brought back, compelled to write about a film I’d watched with the exuberance and giddiness as my 9-year-old self had experienced way back when I witnessed Star Wars back in 1978 (I didn’t get to see the movie until it was brought back to theaters the year after its release).  Yes…even though I’m going to be hitting 49 years old this coming November, I still felt like a little boy as I patiently waited for Spider-Man: Homecoming to begin.
You’d think I would have already felt this way back in 2002 when Tobey Maguire donned the webbed red-and-blues in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man—and I had felt that way as the movie’s final money-shot elicited a huge smile on my face that took quite a while to fade away even as I saw the movie again and again during repeat viewings—but it wasn’t until the sequel to that film was released when I had the state of euphoria that had equaled my Star Wars movie wonderment. 
I’ll state it here and now that the bar was set before going into the theater to see this film—Spider-Man 2 was the film to which I’d compare all the rest.  As it stands—and I know I’ll get some arguments against this (goodness knows I’ve already debated about this with many comic book film enthusiasts)—I don’t think anything has stood up to Sam Raimi’s second Spider-Man outing.  The main dispute that comes up is The Dark Knight, and yes, I do believe Christopher Nolan’s second Batman film is great, but doesn’t have the heroic comic book feel that Spider-Man 2 exhibits.  Every time I watch the sequel, especially the scenes where Spidey is fighting Doctor Octopus on the train, I feel like the scenes are jumping out of a comic book, keeping me glued to the screen as I’d been glued to the comic books as a kid.  That was how I’d wanted to feel again when venturing out to see Spider-Man: Homecoming.
For obvious reasons, I’m not going to even address the Andrew Garfield films because that’ll raise a level of negativity that I really don’t think I can escape.
For the casual viewer of these recent Marvel Studios films, such as the Iron Man or Captain America films, you may not realize how important this film is to all of them.  In short, Sony Pictures owned the filming rights to the Spider-Man character for nearly two decades.  Marvel Comics decided to create their own studios—later, having Disney purchase the whole company—and decided to make this whole cinematic universe to cross-over all their characters in multiple movies.  Basically, Marvel Studios have most of their characters’ rights back, save for Spider-Man belonging to Sony, with The X-Men and Fantastic Four belonging to 20th Century Fox.  However, Sony decided to cooperate and share Spidey (it helped that those aforementioned Andrew Garfield films bombed—I know, I said I wouldn’t get into that), so now there’s a deal in place to share the character and split the wealth that comes with it.
Now, if only 20th Century Fox would smarten up and follow suit…I’m sure they will soon.
Well, for now, let’s get into Spider-Man: Homecoming
Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returns home to live with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and resumes life as a high schooler.  Under the watchfull eye of mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), Parker starts to embrace his newfound identity as Spider-Man.  As Peter tries to go back to his normal daily routine, he’s distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a friendly neighborhood superhero.  However, he must soon put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture (Michael Keaton) emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear.
If you’ve been up-to-date with the Marvel series of movies, then you’ve seen last year’s Captain America: Civil War which showcased the first time Spider-Man has been brought into this cinematic world…and, boy, was it an entrance!  However, coming into this, I’ve got to admit, my expectations were a little low.  I mean, come on, let’s face it…this is the second reboot of the character on film, with the last crappy reboot still fresh in our minds (I know…I’m still refraining…but it’s difficult), so it’s hard to think that any Spider-Man film can have any more tricks up its sleeve to give us something fresh and exciting.
Before getting into the movie, let’s talk about the cast…
First up…Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man is the youngest Spider-Man brought to life on screen at the suitable young age of 21.  In comparison, Nicholas Hammond was 27 when he played the Wall Crawler in the 1977 television series, Tobey Maguire was nearly 27 as well when he took the role in the 2002 film, and Andrew (ugh!) Garfield was close to 29.  It definitely helps here as Holland looks and sounds like he belongs in high school, not having a five o’clock shadow certainly supports the illusion that we’re seeing a young kid deal with the heavy burden of being a person endowed with super powers.  But his acting in this flick comes across as how any of us would feel if we suddenly could flip and jump around, crawling up walls and having the power to kick anybody’s ass…I think we’d feel the same excitement.  Well…at least I would.
The baddie here, Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, aka The Vulture, gives us a memorable performance as well.  At times, we see the comedian come out of him, but most of the time Keaton plays this villain as a commanding head of a criminal organization.  At the same time, we can side with him as he starts this story off as the boss of a legitimate clean-up crew who gets gipped from making a pretty good payday for cleaning up the mess left behind after the Battle of New York that took place during The Avengers.  So, Keaton—as Adrian Toomes—plays his role as anybody seeking fairness.  Seeing him as the bad guy here in Spider-Man: Homecoming, I can’t help but to conjure up memories of Tim Burton’s Batman; it’s very interesting to see Keaton going from the heroic role to the villain.  Though, I think we all know he has the capability to do so, as he’s played the bad guy here and there over the years—Pacific Heights, Desperate Measures, and Robocop are just a few that I can recall—so the choice to make him The Vulture was good.
As you may have seen in the trailers, Robert Downey, Jr. is here as Tony Stark/Iron Man, playing the mentor to young Peter Parker.  We get just enough of Downey as to not make this an Iron Man movie that features Spider-Man, which calms the thoughts of many people who’d thought that this was going to feature more than a cameo of the billionaire-playboy-philanthropist.  Pretty much what you see in the trailers are all the scenes Robert Downey, Jr. is on the screen and that’s a good thing.  But he’s the same witty and amusing tech genius that really doesn’t want Peter to get too involved in the superhero business, obviously protecting him and not wanting him to get hurt.
Marisa Tomei as Aunt May is definitely a new take on the character, but it makes sense when you compare the ages of her character and Peter Parker.  In reality, it’d be completely normal for a fifty-something year-old woman to have a 15-year-old nephew.  I know all us Spider-Man comic book fans would love to have the frail, old, grey-haired woman as Aunt May, complete with hair tied up in a bun, but that would not be relatable…especially between the two characters.  I like what they did here, casting Tomei in the role (which was already established in Captain America: Civil War), and I look forward to seeing how her character evolves from this film.
The rest of the cast does well, with great chemistry between them all.  There are some Easter Eggs and surprises to take in—I may need to take in another viewing to see them all myself.  I won’t go over them because it’ll just bog down this review, not to mention spoil some surprises along the way.
So…as I’d mentioned earlier, the bar was set with Spider-Man 2 as what I consider the best superhero movie—let alone, Spider-Man movie—ever.  Does Spider-Man: Homecoming beat it? 
The quick answer is…no.
But that’s not to say that this is a bad movie, no, on the contrary.  Spider-Man: Homecoming is the perfect introduction for the character to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Holland’s Peter Parker definitely goes through an arc in the film, going from an anxious kid who’d gotten a taste of superheroing with an awesome technological outfit, to an adult-minded young man who understands what he has to do with his newfound powers. 
If anything, this is what endears the character to all who’ve already seen him on the screen to everybody who’s coming into the character brand new.  To see Spider-Man as a newbie, starting off as a bike-thief and car-jacker deterrent, but making mistakes here and there, and going up against a real threat to prove himself even after Stark takes away the tech suit…this all adds up to how valiant and courageous this character has been throughout the years.  At one point during the film, I was kind of thinking about how we weren’t seeing any real web-swinging, but during a pivotal scene in Washington DC where Spider-Man has to scale the Washington Monument, it’s made clear that Peter hasn’t really climbed that high as we see him get a bit of acrophobia at the top of the monolith.
No, Spider-Man 2 still has stood the test of time with The Avengers coming close as toppling that film as the best superhero flick, but Spider-Man: Homecoming is just a different type of movie that is great in and of itself.  I look forward to where this is going and how the character will grow within the Avengers films, in its sequel, and how he’ll crossover into other Marvel productions.  Seeing the numbers over this past weekend, I’m willing to bet that’s how everyone else felt as well.  I hope Sony realizes they have a good thing here and doesn’t blow it.
So…my final “bit” on Spider-Man: Homecoming?
If anything, this movie has a lot of heart, almost going to the point where they try to make the character as great as he’d been in past films, only to dial it back to show you how grounded he should be.  It’s truly an origin story without having us go through the rigmarole of seeing the spider bite and the uncle’s death, but to see how Peter Parker deals with having these great powers as he lives a normal high school life.  Tom Holland does a wonderful job as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, giving us some humorous moments as well as heroic ones.  It’s the perfect—official—introduction of the wallcrawler into the Marvel lineup of films.  I’m definitely looking forward to the ones that are coming up.
Just a heads-up and you probably would know this already, but there is a mid-credits scene that’s fairly important to the film and where it’ll go from here.  Also, there’s an after-credits scene where the joke is on us…not going to go any further than that, but it’s funny…at the movie-goer’s expense.
Thanks for reading!
Cinema Bits is on Facebook and Twitter.

No comments: